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Best warm the Monkey

In the heyday of sailing ships, all war ships and many cargo types carried iron cannon. Most cannons fired round iron cannon balls.  It was necessary to keep a good supply near the cannon.  However, how to prevent them from rolling about the deck?  The best storage method devised was a square-based pyramid with one ball on top, resting on four resting on nine, which rested on sixteen..  Thus, a supply of 30 cannon balls could be stacked in a small area right next to the cannon.  There was only one problem...how to prevent the bottom layer from sliding or rolling out from under the others.  The solution was a metal plate called a "Monkey" with 16 round indentations, with the first layer of balls being placed in those dimples.  If this plate were made of iron, the iron balls would quickly rust to it. The solution to the rusting problem was to make "Brass Monkeys." Alas though, when the temperature dropped too far, the brass indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannonballs could roll right off the monkey.  Thus, it was quite literally, "Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey."  

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